Athletics, marketing, pizza and The Stig might not spring to mind when talking about the vehicle accident repair industry but they all had significant influence in making this year’s Fix Auto UK Conference a success. Mark Hadaway was one of more than 300 delegates from as far afield as China in attendance to witness it all.
A record-number of franchisees, guests from leading insurance companies and suppliers took part in Fix Auto UK’s Conference 2017 held at the Hilton St George’s Park hotel. With the theme ‘Driving Forward’ the event included a line-up of inspiring presentations from top influencers from within the sector as well as those not typically associated with the trade.
The event – moderated by the original BBC Top Gear ‘Stig’ Perry McCarthy – began with a brief introduction from Bob Kirstiuk, owner of Fix Auto UK who spoke of the dramatic growth of Fix Auto World which is now present in nine countries. ‘When we first started out as Fix Auto UK 12 years ago I remember Jean Delisle telling me: ‘This business is simple – you need the right people and consistency across the business.’ We now have that,’ said Bob. ‘We are all entrepreneurs and the magic happens when we all work together to continue to improve and share best practice.’
Head of Fix Auto UK, Ian Pugh then took to the stage to announce 24 consecutive quarters of growth for the business, and predicted the network would deliver £250m worth of repair work to its franchisees within the next three years.
‘I view our continued growth as one of solidity and permanence,’ said Ian, ‘While I attribute our continued success to our core values of honesty and integrity, let’s make no mistake, it has been achieved by the tremendous hard work, dedication and determination of every Fix Auto UK family member.’
He continued by highlighting the numerous initiatives accomplished over the past 12 months and others underway which include continued development of its digital strategy; the emergence of new relationships; new training developments; personnel appointments; and trials involving artificial intelligence. ‘The most pressing challenge for our franchisees at present,’ said Ian, ‘is compliance with the pending GDPR rules. This area of business is only going to get more involved and our job is to ensure we provide the expertise and support to our network.’
Motor claims consultant Ian Guest provided delegates with a fascinating insight into the world of insurance highlighting how a combination of rising claims costs, regulation, and major technological disruptions are forcing insurers to rethink their claims strategies. ‘The old days of annual insurance policies is starting to fade,’ Ian told delegates as he referenced the InsurTech companies such as teambrella and Lemonade disrupting the sector. However, he also suggested the big insurers were ‘fighting back’ with a number of tech start-up investments of their own. ‘Digital as a strategy is happening now within the sector – this is real and will only continue to multiply in the future,’ said Ian.
David Lingham, head of business at Fix Auto World, revealed how the business now encompassed 560 collision shops throughout nine countries with further growth imminent:
‘I anticipate we will be present within 12 countries by the end of Q2 2018,’ explained David listing Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain as current targets. Referring to the purchase of Novus Glass earlier this year, David suggested his role had been ‘complicated’ as the challenge was now to ‘find trusted master franchise partners who could cater for two brands.
‘At the moment Novus is not in the UK but could it fit here in the future? On the flip side of this, Novus has a fantastic network at present in New Zealand but no Fix Auto. Driving together with dual brands is key.’
David then stated that by October 2018, Fix Auto would have a presence in 15 countries with another seven ‘ready to go’.
Chicago-based industry expert Sean Carey provided a detailed analysis of the proliferation of connected cars, the emergence of autonomous vehicles, and their likely effect on damage severity and accident rates.
‘We are way past ADAS,’ Sean told delegates citing how the industry is already at level three on the autonomous drive continuum. ‘There’s a storm brewing and we need the OEMs – they are perfectly positioned for the future and with a significantly greater stakeholder interest in this business than the models we currently see.’
With that he also suggested repairers should not be afraid of the paradigm shift within the industry as ‘those who come through will do very well’.
Beyond the industry contributions, the icing on the cake at the Fix Auto UK conference was hearing from inspirational characters from the worlds of athletics, marketing and pizza.
Olympic medallist and relay champion Kriss Akabusi MBE provided an incredibly passionate, animated and rousing motivational presentation. The 1991 World Champion spoke first-hand about how teamwork succeeds against all the odds – ‘there will be moments when you need help to get across the line’; encouraged the audience to look to millennials for alternative perspectives – ‘you need young people to challenge your thinking; and advised everyone to ‘dream big’.
Branding expert Alex Hunter – who oversaw the Sir Richard Branson’s personal digital strategy along with the Virgin Group’s global policy – provided a thought-provoking and colourful insight into delivering a tailored customer experience. He called this the ‘Wow!’ factor and he discussed the direct success that it generates in terms of customer loyalty. ‘It’s the small stuff that counts,’ Alex explained, ‘move from a transaction mentality to a relationship mind set. Unlock opportunities of customer delight by creating the magic and maintaining the illusion.’
Picking up on this theme, David Wild, CEO of Domino’s Pizza Group, provided the background behind how the UK’s largest pizza franchise has used consumer insight and digital strategies to grow its annual revenues beyond £1bn. Offering some simple customer insights, David suggested convenience is key, the customer should be in control, and be ‘top of the mind’. He added, ‘Do not resist change – the best way to win in business is by accelerating the change.’
Reflecting on the success of the conference, Ian Pugh said, ‘From the feedback we have received, we have achieved our objective of delivering another inspiring and industry-leading conference. Thanks to our speakers, sponsors and guests, we were again able to deliver an event we are truly proud of.’
Fix Auto UK 2017 Awards:
Outstanding Customer Service Award 2017 Fix Auto Penzance
Fix Auto Bodyshop of the Year 2017 Fix Auto Kettering
Fix Auto Region of the Year Region 1
Outstanding Contribution from a Fix Auto Team Member 2017 Tom Hadfield & Gary Churcher
Fix Auto Online Learning Award 2017 Fix Auto Blackpool & Fylde
Fix Auto Allianz Insurance Bodyshop of the Year 2017 Fix Auto Sutton-in Ashfield
Fix Auto Covéa Insurance Most Improved Bodyshop of the Year 2017 Fix Auto Edinburgh West
Fix Auto Co-op Insurance Bodyshop of the Year Fix Auto Petersfield
Fix Auto AXA Insurance Bodyshop of the Year Fix Auto Luton
Fix Auto LV= Insurance Fix Auto Bodyshop of the Year Fix Auto Luton